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The College Process

As one of the nation’s best schools, Deerfield Academy is home to an incredibly talented and diverse student body. As a proud member of this community, I live and learn among students who are committed to the pursuit of excellence. Much of my inspiration comes from taking classes, participating in sports, and collaborating outside classes with so many gifted peers.

Deerfield chose us partly because of our unique talents, a key element in our Deerfield applications. It is safe to say that our distinctive talents contributed to getting us where we are right now: at Deerfield, a diverse and exceptional community. Still, once we arrive, we are expected to conform to a standard academic curriculum, even if, as upperclassmen, we would rather invest more in our unique talents, and less in the general studies we already did for a decade. Entering Deerfield as intellectually curious and talented adolescents, standardized tests and an across-the-board standard curriculum turn us into a homogenous group of students. Is that what our community wants and our society needs?

Will Deerfield lead academic innovation with changes in the curriculum that would formally allow upperclassmen freedom of thoughtful choice? I hope so. Centuries ago, grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, music, astronomy, and geometry (the medieval trivium and quadrivium) awaited the fortunate few afforded the luxury of education. Today, our transcripts are expected to show, year after year, math, sciences, English, history, and languages. Why?

Consumed for so many years with subjects perhaps tangential to our true interests (interests that we discovered along our academic path), we lose our enthusiasm and curiosity. As Deerfield graduates, we certainly should be expected to know quite some math, English, history, sciences, and languages, since we will have been required to study some of these subjects for up to 12 years.

But do we allow ourselves – or rather, does Deerfield allow us the choice – to excel in any one single area? The tension is between wishes and wants: we praise liberal arts education, but also know that colleges already expect excellence shown by specific expertise. The thousands of hours of sustained immersion required to excel in one area takes years of focus and dedication and sacrifice.

Must we continue to spread ourselves thin, even in the final years of our secondary education? To pursue our dreams, should we not have a choice, so we can prove to have gone beyond the basics in one area, as we dare to excel in sports or science, art or music?

Our Deerfield educations prepare us not for college, but for life. As we contemplate our future, it is wise to start focusing our energies in areas essential to our lives as individuals with unique talents and desires, for, as William Butler Yeats wrote, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”

Acadia Brooks ’14

 

As Deerfield juniors begin their whole college process with standardized testing and visiting schools, some may begin to see how their educational careers have led them thus far.  For seniors, though, the process that they have become quite familiar with is nearly over at this point; having sent their applications in with responses pending, there is little left to do but wait and hope for the best.   We have all long been aware of this infamous “college process” but it may not have been until the past few months or years that you have really started to put some thought into it.  For many of us, as long as we can remember, a college education has been characterized as the end to a long educational road. Some may argue that a high school’s main goal is to do anything in their power to get a student into the college of their choice. I disagree and instead say that the first priority should be to prepare the student for the college experience itself, and for life afterwards as well.  The primary focus of any school, and especially one such as Deerfield, should be to create well-rounded and intelligent graduates that will be able to flourish in whatever the next stage of their life may be.  And Deerfield does bring this objective to the table first and foremost.  From sports to theater and music, and community service and beyond, Deerfield most definitely provides the opportunity to become a very personable and diverse individual.  But at the same time, on the individual scale, students should absolutely be trying to take the highest caliber classes they possibly can.  But this doesn’t mean that the curriculum in these classes should be shifted to look more appealing to an admissions office.  Classes focused on *?Having seen my sister go through the college process, I have learned to expect that it can be very unpredictable sometimes, and that there is no one “application trick” that will get you into a certain school or set of schools.  The system in place right now for college admissions is, without a doubt, far from perfect, but you just have to trust that all will work out in the end.  It is important to remember that being the well rounded person that Deerfield is constantly advocating will help you succeed in college and the real world alike, where a large spectrum of skills are called upon every day. Putting the work in now at Deerfield will pay off in your college experience, and mostly so only once you get past admissions.  So start now to be sure that you will have, indeed, lived your life well.

Kyle Burns ’14

 

How do I feel about the college admission process at Deerfield? I think it’s a little bit overrated. I see all the students of Deerfield (including freshman!) who are already worried about college. I came to Deerfield as a new sophomore with not a care in the world about college. I mean, I just got accepted into a great high school! I don’t think we should worry about college until at least the beginning of junior year. Don’t get me wrong; I think it’s natural for seniors to be worried about what deadlines and all that technical stuff. But if everyone is worried about whether or not they are going to get into a “good” college… I’m sorry, but I find that downright insulting.

Let’s look at the stats. According to http://www.boardingschoolreview.com, Deerfield has an average SAT score of 2000 while the national average is 1477, we have 5 more AP courses offered than the average boarding school, our average SSAT score for admission is 87% (99% being the highest score you can get, that’s pretty high.), we have 22 sports offered when the average is 13, 70 clubs compared to 24, and finally our acceptance rate is 13% rather than 60% (lower than a lot of colleges).  To those who are thinking “well, are school maybe fantastic, but I’m not”. Please gain some confidence in yourself. You did get into Deerfield Academy. I also know from working in the admissions office that we have a fantastic admission crew that doesn’t just accept everyone. You got accepted because you were someone that they believed had the potential to succeed here academically, could add to the community with your personality, and finally our fantastic admissions liked you! So knowing this, it’s insulting to me that most students at Deerfield worry about college admissions because that’s almost like saying that the admissions choose a “not-so-fantastic” candidate and Deerfield in general isn’t a “good enough” school. Which leads me to believe that you think admission isn’t good at choosing students, and being a Deerfield student really isn’t that special. Stop. I know this isn’t necessarily what you believe but the way some students say “I should be in a leadership position because…college” that’s just wrong. Deerfield Academy is an exceptional school. That fact that you are here makes you an exceptional student. So please, please, please, don’t for one-minute think you aren’t good enough for a college. If you didn’t get accepted, that probably means that even though you were an awesome student, you weren’t what they were looking for in this year’s class. And that’s fine. There are other fantastic schools out there for you. And if you don’t have the confidence that you’re going to get in anywhere, the weird junior writing this op/ed piece will personally tell you “uh huh, you think you’re not getting into college… hahahah”.

Do I feel like we need to make our curriculum more focused on college? No. We already have a fantastic curriculum. Seniors stop worrying, because as juniors if you fantastic students think that you can’t get in anywhere “good” it makes us worry too.

Leigh Tanji ’14

 

We all know how overwhelming college admissions and the imminent process of applying can be. It is always in the back of every Deerfield student’s mind, freshman to senior (although albeit it may get a tad more present as the years progress). The fact is that the entire sequence of classes, testing, and applications weighs so heavily on students that the solution cannot lie in making it more omnipresent than it already is. The idea of balance is being lost in its entirety and I do not think we can afford that. There cannot be a one size fits all path to get anywhere. Hard classes might be good, but who cares if you’re not interested in the subject? Take classes that have relevance to you and that you want to learn something from, not just walk away from with an A.

Hypothetically, you could die tomorrow, and any time you spent planning for a day that won’t come is lost. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of merit in planning ahead and aiming for the next step, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of where you are and the life you have now. There needs to be a balance between where you are and where you want to go. After all, why would you ever want to apply to anything as someone you aren’t? Your goal should be to improve yourself, not become someone else who other people say is better. Get better, learn, aim high, but don’t lose yourself along the way.

Austin Parenteau ’15

 

If Deerfield will prepare us for college, what will the college prepare us for? Many of our peers live with the hysteria of ‘near tomorrow’ — the notion that today ought to be spent in a way that will make tomorrow better. Or ‘minute frenzy’ — that rushing by this current minute should make the next minute easier for us. Don’t we think this way even with Facebook posts? Our incessant scrolling is constantly driven by the assumption that the next post will be funnier. This month,  Joshua Bell, one of the most talented violinists in the world, played incognito in a D.C. metro station for 45 minutes during the rush hour, as part of a social experiment about perception. 6 people stopped and listened for a while, and 20 gave him money. Washington Post reported the story with the conclusion: ‘If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?’

It is necessary for us to have a farsighted and brave goal for our lives, and perhaps appropriate to have a long-term designation of our chronic resource, but I feel we should approach our goals like a snowball — collecting all that seem beautiful and not beautiful along its path, and not like a tractor, who tramples little wild flowers along its way without even knowing. We shall be receptive of our own growth, unfilled for the scenics yet to be seen, and keep in mind that ‘the times they’re a-changin’’. For that reason we should enjoy the sacred and precious tranquility exclusive to high school students while we still are one, and not worry so much about college. ‘Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.’ (Matthew 6:34). And also, don’t ‘pinch a hook’ that fast, as my fellow Bartoner Bryce Klehm calls it, but open our eyes to what we have not seen before, for I think talent is no more than enthusiasm.

Sal Liu ’15

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